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Author: Consumer Choice Center

The CCC welcomes Lord Wharton and Alexander Kvitashvili as Advisers

The Consumer Choice Center (CCC), the global consumer advocacy group, has announced the appointment of the Right Honourable Lord Wharton of Yarm as Strategic Adviser and of Alexander Kvitashvili as Public Health Adviser.

Lord Wharton took his seat in the House of Lords in September 2020. In 2021, he was appointed the chair of the Office of Students (OfS). Prior to that, Lord Wharton served as Boris Johnson’s Campaign Manager in a Conservative leadership race in 2019 and as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development from July 2015 to June 2017. He was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament for Stockton South in 2010 and served two terms.

Commenting on his appointment, Lord Wharton said:

“I’m extremely excited to be joining the Consumer Choice Center as Strategic Adviser. The CCC’s work in free trade, lifestyle, innovation, and agriculture is outstanding and timely. Evidence-based policies of which the CCC is a passionate advocate have helped improve consumers’ lives in the UK and globally. I look forward to working with the CCC on raising the voice of consumers in the policy process.”

Alexander Kvitashvili is an independent consultant at the World Health Organisation (WHO). He served as the 19th Minister of Healthcare of Ukraine from 2014 to 2016. Kvitashvili also served as Minister of Health of Georgia from 2008 to 2010. Kvitashvili was also the rector of Tbilisi State University (TSU) from 2010 to 2013.

Commenting on his appointment, Alexander Kvitashvili said:

“I am extremely delighted to be joining the CCC’s as a Public Health Adviser. I have been following the work of the CCC since their start, and I am astounded by its achievements. The public health discourse is often riddled with dogma and one-sided views, and the CCC is truly a one-of-its-kind group. The CCC brings brilliant expertise, global perspective, and dedication to preserving consumer choice. I look forward to advising the CCC on public health matters.”

Commenting on the appointments, Fred Roeder, the Managing Director of the CCC said:

“I’m thrilled to welcome Lord Wharton as our new Strategic Adviser and Alexander Kvitashvili as our Public Health Adviser. As the CCC continues to expand, Lord Wharton’s exceptional knowledge of the UK’s domestic scene will be instrumental in helping us elevate the voice of consumers. Alexander’s valuable public health insights will be critical in taking our work to the next level. I am confident that with Lord Wharton and Alexander Kvitashvili onboard, the CCC’s impact will blossom.”

Too many government mandates hurt Pennsylvania businesses

Pennsylvania has garnered a great deal of media attention over the last two years concerning restaurant revoltselusive event gatherings, and parental protests. And with Pennsylvania ranking in as the 5th most populous state, distinct perspectives and positions are par for the course.

Indeed, PA business owners have not shied away from making their preferences and opinions known – and this is a good thing. Individuals and their interests are what have historically powered America’s economic advancements through decentralized decision-making, grassroots initiatives, and an entrepreneurial mindset.

In Warren Buffet’s 2021 annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, he made it clear that he banks on American ingenuity:

“Success stories abound throughout America. Since our country’s birth, individuals with an idea, ambition and often just a pittance of capital have succeeded beyond their dreams by creating something new or by improving the customer’s experience with something old.”

Buffet’s statement highlights two key factors for a successful marketplace – individual choice and an improved customer experience. And it is precisely these two aspects that put business owners on high alert when any new policy may impede either.

Yet, as the new year approaches, new policies are coming into play for some parts of PA.

Philadelphia will be rolling out a vaccine mandate on January 3 for indoor dining experiences. The mandate applies to places like bars, sport venues, and eateries but it doesn’t impact other places where eating may take place such as childcare settings, soup kitchens, and congregated care facilities. The mandate also applies to anyone over the age of 5, and this may prove problematic for those who booked a Philly getaway and are coming from a country where the vaccine has not yet been approved for children (the standard in Europe is for those over the age of 12).

Unlike Philly, Pittsburgh is leaving the vaccination verification up to business owners regarding whether they wish for customers to provide proof or not. For some restaurants, the requisite of requiring patrons to be vaccinated hasn’t hampered business – actually, in some instances, it has helped.

Essentially, Pittsburg is playing a waiting game to see how Philly fares and even what restaurants will require on their own accord. Pitt’s approach allows consumers to choose which retailers and restaurants they wish to frequent, while business owners can choose what policies they wish to enact. It is up to the customer and company to determine how much risk they are comfortable with, and really that is what it all comes down to – determining the hazard present and considering the tradeoffs involved.

When too much emphasis is placed on the hazard aspect, though, blanket bans are often applied from on high, which can sometimes have regrettable results.

David Clement, the North American Affairs Manager for the global think tank Consumer Choice Center, has identified several existing policies, as well as policies being proposed, where the trade-offs simply are not worth the application of risk-based regulations.

An easy analogy Clement uses to illustrate the matter is sun exposure. Although too much can be harmful to one’s health, it would be ill-advised to avoid sunlight altogether since there are beneficial elements derived from the sun’s rays.

With this in mind, one of the cases Clement notes within a policy report is the use glyphosates. Glyphosates are currently under scrutiny in Pennsylvania, but a blanket ban seems counterintuitive given the benefits derived from its use – such as ensuring farmers can have a successful harvest and keeping invasive species at bay. High yield crop productions allow for a greater supply to be brought to market, which then means consumers (and restaurateurs) have more healthy options at a lower cost.

Although traces of glyphosates are found in certain foods and beverages, it is important to keep in mind that traces won’t result in tragedies, and ample evidence attests to this fact.

Clement notes how the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment determined that “in order for glyphosate residues in beer to constitute a health risk, a consumer would need to drink 1,000 liters in one day.” One thousand liters equals 264.172 gallons, and despite Pennsylvania being a bulging hub for craft breweries, consumption to such a degree would be toxic regardless of the presence of glyphosates.

Just like with sunlight, it is the amount that matters – and it is also the individuals involved and the situation at hand. Indeed, some people can down a few more beers than others or partake in a full day of sunbathing without worry, and this is why mitigation efforts mustn’t be made by a centralized power player that is to a large extent separated from the day-to-day aspects of events or actions.

In the New Year, public officials would do well to remember dollar bills from consumers are more powerful in the mind of businesses than House bills from bureaucrats; and as in the words of Elon Musk, it may be best for government to simply “get out of the way” to allow for a 2022 business rebound in PA.

Originally published here

Delaying the proposed law on content quotas

In February 2021, the Mexican senate proposed a new law (Ley Federal de Cinematographia y de Audiovisual) that would require a national audiovisual content quota of 15%. If the law passed, streaming services and digital platforms would have to reduce their content offer to meet a 15% national quota. To meet the quota, Prime Video, for example, would have to delete two-thirds of its library. 

CCC hosted a successful webinar to discuss the negative effects this policy would have on consumers, while not even achieving its purpose of increasing production and consumption of national content. Webinar created quite a buzz and was featured in more than 50 Mexican news outlets! CCC also interacted with members of the Mexican senate and other stakeholders to stop the law.

Fortunately, our efforts didn’t go unnoticed, the law has been delayed and will have to go under a full review and be debated in parliament according to Mexico’s legislation. We hope the Mexican parliament will leave it up to Mexican consumers to decide what movies and series they prefer to watch. 

Paid plasma collection coming to Alberta

Blood plasma is a valuable resource used to create medicines that treat burns, help those with immune deficiencies, coagulation disorders and respiratory diseases. 

The Voluntary Blood Donations Act in Alberta banned paid plasma donation in 2017. However, the voluntary system only provides 20% of supply needed, making the Province of Alberta, and the country, reliant on foreign sources.

To meet the domestic need for plasma therapies, Canada has imported more than 80 percent of these therapies from the United States, where plasma donors are compensated for their donations.

We have long advocated in support of paid plasma donations around the country and we are happy to see the Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act being passed. This allows private companies to pay donors for their plasma and plasma collection is expected to increase in Alberta, as it has in other jurisdictions. The CCC’s North American Affairs Manager David Clement has advocated for the allowance of paid plasma in The Western Standard, and the Toronto Star.

This is the news worth celebrating and here’s to hoping other provinces follow Alberta’s lead.

December 2020

Happy Holidays!

The year 2020 was definitely not a fun year for many consumers.

But with the approval of COVID vaccine(s), there is light at the end of the tunnel.

While my home country Germany is proud of being the birthplace of the first vaccine, patients will have to wait for its approval. Countries like the UK, the US, and Canada are already more advanced and have already begun vaccinating vulnerable patients.

Furthermore, the European Commission sees the current crisis as an opportunity to centralize drug pricing and reimbursement decisions away from national governments. We see this as a threat to patient access and innovation in Europe.

Fortunately, we were able to find 30 Members of the European Parliament from across the aisle to co-sign our letter to the European Commission opposing this so-called pharmaceutical strategy.
READ OPEN LETTER HERE

Launching a New Podcast! 🎧

Our Bill Wirtz was so impressed by David and Yaël’s work on the Consumer Choice Radio show that he launched ConsEUmer, a weekly podcast covering EU politics. 
Make sure to subscribe to ConsEUmer here: consumerchoicecenter.org/conseumer
Available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and many other streaming services!
LISTEN HERE


Covid-Friendly Protest in Brussels! 

While COVID did not allow us much in-person work this year, the CCC joined the World Vapers’ Alliance cardboard protest in front of the EU Parliament. Protesting 2020-style!

Vaping in California

Success in California on vape flavor ban – the ban is delayed! You can find our coalition letter opposing the vape flavor ban here.
READ HERE

Is Facebook a Monopoly?

And in times where social media is one of the few means of socially distanced communication, the CCC is fighting anti-consumer actions in US antitrust — Find Yael’s piece on why the FTC gets it wrong here.
READ MORE

Targeted Advertising

Why banning or restricting targeted advertisement on both sides of the Atlantic is bad news for consumers.
READ MORE

12 Tips for Shopping Online

Our Holiday Gift to You: 12 consumer tips during the festive season to shop safely online.
GO TO INSTAGRAM

Canadian Plastics Ban

In Canada, the Federal government has announced a new plastic ban and has labelled plastic as a schedule 1 toxin under CEPA. David Clement published two op-eds on this topic, one in the Financial Post in October and again in theToronto Sun in December. More to come on this hot issue!
READ MORE

Make the milk more affordable

Supply Management – Our David Clement keeps fighting the battle against expensive dairy, poultry, and eggs in Canada. 
The Financial Post published his latest stance on this important consumer issue, and the Western Producer used his comments to directly challenge the government on their support of supply management.

Several Members of Parliament were challenged by journalists after David got published #HOTSEAT
READ HERE

European Green Deal

In The Parliament Magazine, Bill Wirtz asks how much the European Green Deal will cost consumers. Can we afford to pay more for electricity and daily consumption goods? A new impact assessment by the European Commission confirms our worst fears.
READ HERE

Pro Innovation in Agriculture in Italy

Great news! A new pro-innovation agriculture amendment law was passed yesterday in the Italian parliament. In 2021, Italy will have its own impact assessment on the Farm to Fork strategy. 

#WIN

November 2021

We’re back at it here at Consumer Choice Center, giving you the latest and greatest in our campaigns fighting for YOU across the world. Do you care about lifestyle freedom, innovative technologies, and smart public policies? Then you’re in the right place!


Consumer Choice Supervillains NFT Collectible Cards

When it comes to discussions about public policies, especially those around vaping, we all know there are some supervillains out there. That’s why we launched the Consumer Choice Center Supervillains collectible card set, now available as NFTs on OpenSea.
READ MORE HERE

Fighting for ridesharing in Toronto

My colleague (radio co-host David) has been slaying the dragons that want to phase out innovative ridesharing solutions like Uber in Toronto, Canada.He testified at a city council hearing, gave interviews on radio and TV, and had this article published in the National Post.
READ MORE HERE

The Shady Side of Student Loan Forgiveness

Elizabeth has a widely-syndicated article on the calls for loan forgiveness and why that would be harmful to millions who did not go to college, and would also serve to further inflate the costs of university education.

She also highlights the actions of some rather pernicious actors in the loan forgiveness space, using class action lawsuits to try to extract payments from private colleges.
READ MORE

Crypto Hunters: Why Elites are Anxious About Cryptocurrencies

Money, power, encryption, decentralization, and a monetary alternative.

The rise of cryptocurrencies is, in our opinion, something to celebrate and uphold. And while the adoption of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others is speeding up among those who could really use it, there are efforts by institutions to regulate access to the on and off-ramps.

That’s why we need smart policy to continue to support innovation, while keeping scam projects in check. Check out my latest article in the European Conservative magazine.
READ MORE

Nicotine is not your Enemy: 6 Reasons to stop the war on nicotine

One complaint we often have in our work is that public health entities spread many myths and lies about nicotine. 

Reducing the number of smokers and allowing them to rapidly and efficiently switch to a less harmful alternative should be a major priority for governments and public health agencies worldwide.

Unfortunately, too many people confuse nicotine consumption with the diseases caused by smoking. In this paper, we outline six main reasons why the war on nicotine is pointless and should stop.

My colleague Maria Chaplia and World Vapers’ Alliance Michael Landl team up for this great policy note.
READ HERE

Smart cannabis bill introduced in the US House

When it comes to smart policies on cannabis policies, we are very happy to support South Carolina congresswoman Nancy Mace’s bill, the STATES Reform Act, which would be the most consumer-friendly model of legalizing cannabis across the United States.

Our main goal should be in restoring justice, promoting market access, and finally stamping out the black market.

We joined up with a coalition of groups at the Cannabis Freedom Alliance to give our endorsement of what this bill aims to achieve, and we hope to continue to push it until it is adopted.
LEARN MORE

100 Episodes of Consumer Choice Radio

Speaking of successes, David and I just celebrated a milestone for the ages: 100 episodes of Consumer Choice Radio!

When we launched in January 2020, we didn’t know where we were headed.

Now, almost two years later, we are syndicated on two radio stations, have a booming podcast version that can accept streaming Bitcoin payments on Podcasting 2.0-compliant apps, and we’ve been able to interview congresspeople, members of Parliament, entrepreneurs, authors, and innovators who are making a difference for consumer choice.

For the latest, we interviewed Rep. Nancy Mace on her cannabis bill, Rep. Larry Bucshon on why some PFAS chemicals are vital, Alexandra Gaiser from River Financial about Bitcoin maximalism, and Canadian MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith about why excise taxes on non-alcoholic beer don’t make sense. Subscribe to our YouTube for the video interviews, or subscribe to the podcast version below!

 
SUBSCRIBE
Okay look, there is so much more to say about the great work my colleagues have been doing around the globe. It’s far too much for just one newsletter (or even an Instagram Reel).

Won’t you consider, therefore, checking out our social media channels? You’ll find the links below.

If there is a consumer issue that affects you and would like to get *ACTIVATED* just let me know and we’ll see what we can do.

Thank you ALWAYS for the support you provide us, and I look forward to sharing more great stories in the New Year.

Happy Holiday season!

Electrifying Alabama: ‘They want to be the forefront, let’s make it the forefront’

Earlier this week, Gov. Kay Ivey launched “Drive Electric Alabama,” a public awareness campaign promoting electric vehicle sales and “showing the nation, once again, Alabama is a driving force in the automotive industry,” the governor stated.

However, a June Consumer Choice Center report ranks Alabama among the worst states to purchase an electric vehicle, while Bumper, an online search tool for vehicle history reports, ranks Alabama 49th for ease of owning one.

Alexander City resident Carl Kovach, a five-year Tesla owner, calls it “ridiculous.”

“They’re saying they want to be the forefront; let’s make it the forefront,” Kovach said of his state government. “Let’s do what we need to do to ensure that their citizens are able to get a vehicle and know that they have the availability and the servicing and the fuel and everything else they need.”

Read the full article here

Economías colaborativas: Buenos Aires quedó 9° en un ranking de 44 ciudades de América Latina

El estudio evalúa la disponibilidad de una serie de servicios de movilidad, transporte, alojamiento y actividad física a través de plataformas digitales que conectan a consumidores y prestadores.

En los últimos años, la tecnología ha presentado un sinfín de nuevas alternativas en productos y servicios que han permitido a las personas elegir y modificar sus hábitos de consumo, de acuerdo a sus necesidades diarias. La pandemia del Coronavirus produjo el desembarco de más herramientas, pero fundamentalmente ha acelerado procesos de adopción por parte de los consumidores.

De acuerdo a relevamientos realizados por PwC relacionados a diferentes estudios y encuestas sobre la temática a nivel global, el valor de la industria de la economía colaborativa llegaría a los u$s335.000 millones para 2025, compartiendo un 50% del mercado con el modelo tradicional.La investigación establece que los consumidores consideran que esta nueva manera de hacer negocios ayuda a reducir los costos de consumos diarios, implica mayor eficiencia, reduce la contaminación, genera mayor comodidad a la hora de comprar y construye una comunidad más fuerte, que basa su éxito en la confianza entre oferentes y demandantes.

Buenos Aires quedó ubicada en el noveno puesto del Índice de Economía Colaborativa Latam 2021, un relevamiento que analiza 44 ciudades de Latinoamérica y evalúa la disponibilidad de una serie de servicios de movilidad, transporte, alojamiento y actividad física a través de plataformas digitales que conectan a consumidores y prestadores. El estudio, realizado en conjunto por la red Somos Innovación, Relial y el Consumer Choice Center, también tiene en cuenta la accesibilidad que presentan dichas plataformas, en términos de requisitos, para quienes buscan ofrecer o consumir servicios a través de ellas.

Read the full article here

CCC joins coalition opposing Sohn’s federal communications commission nomination

A coalition of 18 center-right organizations sent a letter to the Senate opposing Gigi Sohn’s nomination to serve as a Commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission.

Sohn has spent decades as a hyper-partisan activist, launching attacks against regulators and elected officials who do not share her views. All of which has been well documented on social media. The letter outlines her past positions and how, if confirmed, Sohn would work to instill policies that would crush innovation, silence conservative speech, and eviscerate intellectual property protections.  

December 1, 2021  

Dear Senators:  

We, the undersigned, represent a broad coalition of organizations who oppose the nomination of Gigi Sohn to serve as Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission. If confirmed, Sohn would work to instill policies that would crush innovation, silence conservative speech, and eviscerate intellectual property protections.  

The FCC was created by Congress to be an independent regulator and it has broad power over the telecommunications, media, and technology sectors. The agency has been characterized by bipartisan cooperation and accountability to Congress.  

Sohn has spent decades as a hyper-partisan activist, launching attacks against regulators and elected officials who do not share her views. She implied that the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee is an industry puppet. She suggested that Republican senators are a threat to the country. She credits center-right news outlets with “destroying democracy” and “electing autocrats.” And she joined the board of an organization after it was sued by major broadcasters for violating the Copyright Act—a case that recently resulted in a $32 million judgment against her organization. Given these views, it is hard to believe that Sohn would give regulated entities a fair shake or operate in a bipartisan manner at the FCC.  

The FCC plays a critical role in protecting and upholding free speech and the First Amendment rights of regulated entities. Sohn’s willingness to use the FCC’s power to silence her opponents is disqualifying on its own.  Sohn has expressed interest in the FCC revoking hundreds of broadcast licenses from a particular broadcaster due in part to the editorial decisions that company has made. She supported a campaign by elected officials to pressure cable and streaming services to drop conservative news outlets. And she closely aligns with an organization who petitioned the FCC to investigate broadcasters whose COVID-19 coverage they disagreed with.

Her views on Title II are emblematic of her longstanding tendency to promote policies that over-regulate the industries in the FCC’s jurisdiction. Sohn was one the chief architects of the short-lived Title II common-carriage rules that she claimed were necessary to enforce net neutrality. The rules drove down broadband investment,  increased prices, and decreased the adoption of home Internet service. Sohn has made it clear that she not only wants to reinstate these rules, but wants to take them further, including a ban on “zero-rating,” the free wireless data services that are particularly popular among low-income users. She has also signaled a desire for the FCC to set the price of broadband service, a practice that would be more apt for the Soviet Union than the United States.

When the rules were being repealed by the prior administration’s FCC, Sohn encouraged the far-left activist campaigns that fueled hyperbolic and doomsday predictions about the destruction of the Internet. FCC commissioners received death threats and a bomb threat was called into the FCC moments before the vote to repeal the rules. Sohn works with and supports the organizations who engaged in the tactics and rhetoric that led to these ugly displays.

Throughout her career, Sohn has favored policies that undermine intellectual property rights protections. She spearheaded an FCC proceeding that would have enabled tech platforms to effectively steal and monetize television content without paying for usage rights. Sohn also served on the board of Locast, a “non-profit” that was determined to be illegally retransmitting broadcasters’ content without their consent in violation of the Copyright Act. The case resulted in a permanent injunction that required Locast to pay $32 million in statutory damages. Sohn cannot be an impartial regulator of the broadcast industry after joining the Board of an organization that openly violated that industry’s copyrights. 

As the decisive vote on controversial matters at the agency, Sohn would have the power and incentive to push the FCC towards government control of communications. Further, the Biden Administration has shown a willingness to mislead Senators when it comes to agency leadership, as demonstrated by the bait-and-switch the White House pulled with the Federal Trade Commission, when Chair Khan was elevated after being confirmed under false pretenses. The potential for Sohn to become chair of the FCC makes her nomination all the more concerning. 

Sohn’s confirmation would jeopardize investment and innovation, threaten free speech, and bring partisanship to the FCC. For these and other reasons, we urge Senators to reject Sohn’s confirmation. 

Deputados europeus defendem quebra de patentes a Lira e Pacheco

Congresso Nacional dará palavra final ao veto de Jair Bolsonaro sobre quebra temporária de patentes de vacinas

Parlamento Europeu defendeu que o Congresso Nacional derrube um veto de Jair Bolsonaro sobre a quebra temporária de patentes de vacinas e medicamentos para enfrentar emergências sanitárias. A carta foi enviada nesta quarta-feira (17/11) ao presidente da Câmara, Arthur Lira, e ao presidente do Senado, Rodrigo Pacheco.

Oito deputados do Parlamento Europeu defenderam que o Congresso volte a exigir que donos de patentes transfiram o conhecimento das suas tecnologias. “O direito humano à saúde tem precedência sobre regras em aspectos comerciais de propriedades intelectuais”. O documento faz menção ao acordo Trips, lei de patentes internacional da qual o Brasil é signatário.

Read the full article here

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